RAINFORD cricketer Ellie Threlkeld has praised Lancashire for giving Thunder the primetime slot during Wednesday’s T20 double header with the Red Rose men.

Thunder face runaway Group B leaders Southern Vipers under lights at 7pm, after Lancashire Lightning face Derbyshire Falcons in the Vitality Blast in the afternoon (3pm).

Lancashire have demonstrated a great desire to develop the women’s game on an equal footing in recent times, none more so than the start of this year.

They have refurbished the away dressing room to make it the Thunder’s designated home, adorning it with photographs of players and memorable moments.

Thunder and Lancashire then travelled to Dubai in March on a joint pre-season tour, a first in county cricket, and Wednesday’s scheduling is another example. 

“To stage us as the main event just shows how much Lancashire is supporting women’s cricket,” said Thunder captain Threlkeld. “Credit and thanks to them for that. I know all the girls are really excited.

“We love playing at Old Trafford, and the pitch there will be really handy with our bowling attack.

“I think it’s brilliant for us to play on county and international grounds where the pitches are really good. Double headers tend to bring more fans in, which can only be good for the women’s game.”

Wednesday is the first of two T20 double headers with Lancashire’s men, the other being on Friday when Thunder host the Loughborough-based Lightning in the afternoon and Lancashire host Northamptonshire in the evening.

Thunder’s hopes of a place at Finals Day are hanging by a thread and could be over by the time they take the field against Vipers. 

The top team in each of the two groups qualifies for Finals Day at Northampton on June 11, as does the best second-placed finisher.

They can no longer usurp Group B leaders Southern Vipers (18 points), so the best second place is what they’re aiming for. With 10 points still available, Thunder (five) sit behind Northern Diamonds (10) in Group B and South East Stars (12) in Group A.

If Group A leaders Central Sparks and the Stars win their Wednesday afternoon games, Thunder will be out of contention.

“From the start of the competition, we’ve just taken it game by game,” said Threlkeld, who could potentially have England duo Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone available after IPL Challenge commitments in India. 

“Winning trophies is everyone’s goal, and we’re no different. But development is also important.

“Whether we can qualify or not, we’re a young team, and these two games are massive in terms of progression.”

The availability of Cross and Ecclestone will be assessed in conjunction with the England management. 

Whatever the situation is regarding qualification, one thing is clear to Threlkeld - her and her middle order colleagues must contribute more with the bat if Thunder are to progress as a side. 

So far this season, they have been over-reliant on runs from openers Georgie Boyce and Emma Lamb, who have made a sparkling start to 2022. 

Both have scored two half-centuries in four CE Cup games, sharing partnerships of 36, 95, 130 and 31.

But, the top score from any other batter in the team is 26, posted by left-hander Danielle Collins in Sunday’s defeat against Northern Diamonds at Headingley.

Threlkeld said: “The middle order need to take some responsibility when Emma Lamb and Georgie Boyce don’t get us off to the start we’ve had in the few games before Sunday.

“That’s where we’re going wrong at the minute. If the middle can get a few more runs between us, we’ll be in a much better place.”

Tickets (from £10 for adults & kits for a quid) for the historic doubleheader at Emirates Old Trafford are available to purchase here.